On Cover Designs

It seems to me a miracle that any workable cover designs ever get produced. I’ve poured over the covers of all those best selling thrillers for ideas, but most of them have nothing to offer: The figure of a man in silhouette on a foggy day, car headlights in a serious smog, a half-open door in (you guessed it) a fog. So you go to your cover design graphic artist dude/dudess and this is the sort of conversation that ensues:

Writer: I need a cover for my new thriller.
Artist: Leave it with me.
Writer: Don’t you want to read the book?
Artist: You must be joking. No, all I need is a rough idea to get the creative juices flowing.
Writer: It’s a thriller—
Artist: Right, give me a week and I’ll come up with a few ideas.
Writer: It’s about a detective called Ben Jordan. A protected witness gets shot—
Artist: What’s it called?
Writer: St Patrick’s Day Special.
Artist: It’s a thriller, right?
Writer: Yes, it’s set in Dublin in 2004.
Artist: Right, leave it with me. I’ll come up with a few ideas and get back to you.
Writer: But—
Artist: I’ll call you.

By all that’s holy, how can any cover designer work with so little information? Imagine the analogous situation in the construction industry.

Architect: I’d like you to erect a building for me.
Builder: Right, leave it with me.
Architect: I have the plans here—
Builder: Oh, don’t confuse me with plans. What sort of building is it?
Architect: It’s a hospital.
Builder: Right, wards and stuff. Got it. Leave it with me. I’ll build something and get back to you.

My thriller is finished. It’s been written, rewritten a dozen times, polished primped and preened. And it’s been professionally edited. The next step is to publish. All I need is a knockout cover. Being less than happy with what my cover designer dudess came up with, I spent the last two weeks working with her and this is what we came up with.

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “On Cover Designs

  1. Juliana L. Brandt says:

    Ick, that’s frustrating!

    Is the cover on the right of the screen what you’re referring to? I actually kind of liked the other cover you had posted with the handcuffs and blood droplets. For me, it was intriguing.

    I really hope you land on a cover you absolutely love!!

  2. bknight says:

    Hi my name is Brittan Knight, and I went through the same thing trying to get a cover artist for my Sci-Fi novel.

    I finally tried a freelance service called elance. It was there that I came across a designer that was able to work with me and create, in my opinion, a very nice cover. You can find my book at smashwords and amazon titled The Rescue of the Libertolian.

    The art was done by a digital artist out of serbia. I was so impressed with his work that I made him a big part of my recent press release.

    If you are interested, contact me and I will give you contact info for him.

    Cheers and good luck,

  3. Carradee says:

    Hm. I can’t read the cover very well—but I’m also having vertigo problems, so it might just be me.

    Still, it doesn’t stand out. Maybe if the title were some bright color, to catch the eye?

    I’m the do-it-myself type, personally. I’ve tried working with a graphic artist friend, but I’m too much of a fiddler. That’s true for my web design and e-book covers.

    I took the cover she made for me and fiddled with it (to help it stand out and match the covers for related stories), and could tell she was hurt that I’d messed with it.

    So, in the future, while I think I might buy art or photos, I won’t buy a full cover unless it’s an inexpensive one for a short story that fits as-is.

  4. j. m. lee says:

    As an author and an illustrator AND a graphic designer, I have to say, you may just be working with the wrong person!

    I’ve worked with plenty of writers on designs for book sites, covers, etc. On the one hand, I usually get way more information than I need to do a really killer cover… and on the other hand, a designer should be asking SOME questions other than what genre you’re doing.

    If you’re not happy with what you get, contract another designer. And always be sure to pick someone whose portfolio is attractive to you and who DOES what you’re asking for – just as there are authors who write all genres, designers specialize in different fields. You’re hiring them for their work and for their expertise, so make sure you find someone who specializes in what you want.

    I also recommend this great interview with Vintage designer great John Gall to get a glimpse into a cover designer’s head – he has great perspective and talent!


  5. E. S. Lark says:

    I took a look at the cover in question and need to be honest, it isn’t intriguing. I also don’t care for the typography.

    The cover should give us a slim idea of what the book’s about, but with the gun overlaying the main image, it looks cluttered and I really can’t say what kind of plot it would have, thriller or otherwise.

    I got fed up with trying to find a cover artist and started working on my own. I read up on photo manipulation and have been working on it for months. I think I have the hang of it now.

  6. anyakelleye says:

    Oh wow, I hate that you had such a hard time getting info to your cover artist. I spend weeks sometimes just working on a cover for the authors I create for. I really prefer to read the book if possible so that I can really portray the story on the cover as much as possible. Your cover artist should listen to you. It is your book after all.

  7. Summer Fey Foovay says:

    Back in the old days when you had a publisher, and that publisher had cover artists working for them – what those artists got told and had to work with was “make us a cover for a thriller”. The most an artist got was ONE PARAGRAPH of the book – maybe – with “illustrate this”.

    Now that writers can choose to be self-published, and chose their own cover illustrator, it’s a whole new world.

    I write and I draw. I wouldn’t even consider trying to create a cover for a book I haven’t gotten to read – all the way through. It might take a bit longer, after all, I need time to read it, but that’s my choice of how I want to work. As a self-published author myself, I also realized that most indie authors don’t have millions to spend on a cover. So yeah – feel free to contact me about a cover.

    And I believe that in the very near future, you will find more and more independent illustrators who want to work in exactly this way with independent authors.

    So to echo j.m.lee you may not be working with the right artist – yet. They are out there hoping you will find them 😉

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